How a proposition is the most valuable business investment you can make

Proposition
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When people set up businesses, they do so with some goal in mind and those goals can vary greatly.

For some, it may be simply to provide an additional source of income, for others it’s to monetise a particular passion or field of expertise, for others it’s a route to global domination. And there are lots more in between.

Whatever the reason, whatever the goal, all business owners want their enterprises to do well and yet so many skip an essential step to making this happen, and that is developing and thinking about a clear proposition.

Over the years we have worked with many businesses. All have been of varying sizes, all of varying sectors and many in different stages of their life cycle. Our brief is to help drive growth, whether that’s through planning and delivery of sales, marketing and commercial, or through the establishment of culture and communication through employee engagement. However, there is a common denominator with each of these briefs in that we always start with establishing a clear proposition.

In his now famous Ted Talk “Start with Why”, Simon Sinek addresses this all-important issue. While Sinek uses the example of Apple, he explores the topic of why certain companies are able to achieve extraordinary success while others, with the same resources and very similar products have failed.

His summation: start with ‘the why’. In our language, understand your reason for being and create a clear path of differentiation for your business.

There’s ROI in a proposition

Growth and ROI – music to a business leader’s ears – is the ultimate outcome from a clear proposition. And here is why… 

It is now well documented those businesses which demonstrate a sustained performance are those who have been successful in identifying their proposition at the start. That means it can be the difference between success and failure or difference between mediocre growth versus accelerated growth.

A proposition is quite literally your promise as a business, articulated succinctly and aligned to the vision, mission and values. Brands can be built on what they do or how they do it, but the ‘what’ (e.g we make laptops) is very rarely found to be unique and the ‘how’ (e.g. they are cheap and portable) can be easily copied.

If you stand in a line-up of offerings that all fundamentally provide a similar service or are similar performing products – how do you differentiate?

And that’s where your proposition comes in, or the ‘why’ (if we’re quoting our friend Simon Sinek). It is something distinct and acts a foundation for reaching out to your target audience.

It is far more powerful to build a brand around a purpose, and your proposition articulates that purpose. Your proposition is your organisation’s reason for being. It creates a clear point of difference and a compelling “Why us?” rationale. Something essential for sales and new business communication.

The power of the proposition

All too often, businesses think back to front on this topic.

The classic and enduring mistake made is to talk about yourself. “We are industry leaders in…We are an award-winning…We provide the best…” and so on and so forth.

The issue with such statements is that they refer to your business, not what your business does for the customer.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but businesses need to come to terms with the fact that most customers don’t really care if you’re the most experienced in your field, or what’s in your trophy cabinet.

The key to crafting an effective proposition with longevity lies in putting together something that doesn’t bamboozle with a shopping list of features, functions and numbers.

Instead, it translates in clear and uncertain terms what the product or service does for a customer. It also allows the customer to see and recognise why your product or service is better relative to the competition. If it’s done with sufficient skill, it has the power to generate a level of interest and desire in the customer and turn this into active engagement.

It’s when you get to that magic point that you can answer the “so what” questions concisely and without needing elaboration, that you’re likely to have hit a tangible and meaningful benefit for the customer.

In it for the long haul – a proposition provides guidance

Your proposition provides the backbone for articulating your organisation’s brand promise. And doing it consistently. It is the North Star for how you look, sound and behave – all the facets of your brand. And that is something that won’t be lost on a prospective customer.

The contemporary customer is a discerning beast and you must always assume that if they’re looking for a product or service you offer, should they happen upon your business, yours will be one of many.

It also goes a long way to unifying your workforce. Growth and success are only possible when everyone is pulling in the same direction and are motivated by the same desire to deliver on the company’s objectives. A proposition that entrenches these objectives ensures that everyone in your company communicates the same message and it does as much to motivate and compel employees as it does your target customer base.

Over to you…

By getting the right people collaborating and stress-testing versions with the “so what?” test, you could come up with something that really resonates and which you will soon come to realise was one of the, if not themost important endeavours you undertook.